I'm that person that pulls over to help turtles cross roads. I should almost get a bumper sticker that says something along those lines to warn people, especially this time of year.

Turtle season is in full force and if you live near a water source chances are good you are seeing more of our reptilian friends. My neighborhood has a couple of very small run-off ponds and I have been helping turtles left and right.

In Minnesota, there are a few reasons turtles cross roads often (no this isn't like the iconic chicken joke):

  1. They are moving between wetland habitats
  2. Females are seeking out a place to lay their eggs (this one usually happens late-May through June)
  3. Newly hatches turtles are on the move to their new homes
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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation gave some helpful tips when it comes to helping turtles cross safely.

Don't Put Yourself or Others in Danger

Always be aware of traffic and your surroundings. Sometimes just pulling over and turning on hazard lights can be enough to let others on the road know that something is happening and they should slow down.

Avoid Excessive Handling

Turtles are wild animals. Wanting to examine them is fine, but limit your time. Help them out and move on. When you do handle them, be gentle. Snappers and Softshells (leatherbacks) should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. Also know most turtles pee when they are picked up. Just a heads up on that.

Try to Allow Unassisted Crossing

Approaching them could cause them to switch direction or go into their shell. If they can cross unaided with no oncoming traffic, let them.

Maintain Their Direction of Travel

Always move the turtle in the direction that they were headed. There is a reason they are going that way, and moving them the opposite way will only cause them more stress.

Document Where the Turtle Was Crossing

The DNR is partnering with MnDot, Minnesota Herpetological Society,and Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program Three Rivers Park District to map where turtles are crossing on Minnesota roads to see where changes need to be made to help them in the future. You can learn how to log your turtle data here. 

Have a great summer enjoying all the wonderful nature and wildlife Minnesota has to offer.

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